The activity of close reading lies at the heart of literary studies, a “signature pedagogy” that distinguishes English from other disciplines. Despite its centrality to the discipline, however, close reading has been curiously resistant to analysis. This lesson study aimed to determine where students encounter challenges in close reading. Contrary to dominant narratives in the discipline, the university students in this study were adept at formal analysis. They were challenged, on the other hand, by invitations to make intertextual and personal connections to the text. Analyzing features of successful close reading, the essay proposes that intertextual thinking and personal connection are important components. The essay recommends assessing student skills in the initial stages of teaching close reading and, when warranted, integrating instruction in intertextual thinking and making personal connections alongside formal analysis. It also suggests group discussion may help leverage these neglected components of close reading.

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